Something begins to stir

Two things have struck me quite forcibly in recent weeks. The outstanding attendances at the AUOB marches and the reactions to the Growth Commission report.

Many years ago, the late Maggie Ewing would tell anyone who would listen that she knew when Scotland would win Independence. “When the people start marching for it”. The Glasgow rally I was prepared to be sceptical about, possible one off, big city attractions, novelty value etc. Plus the fact that we were moving house and that was taking all my attention. I readily admit to being stunned at the turn out and the enthusiasm evident in the numerous videos on the day and over the following week.

It was clear that something had begun to stir in the undergrowth which had gone largely unnoticed and not just by me.

However the crowd in Dumfries really sent my rapidly fading memory back to Maggie’s dictum. Scotland has begun to march and I’m really looking forward to the future events. Not only in Inverness but also Dundee and now apparently Edinburgh!

What makes these events so interesting to me is a combination of the turn out obviously, but the good- natured character and particularly the reaction to the handful of yoons turning out. Violence they would have loved, anger they could have fed off, but laughter they cannot handle! The Sunday Herald undoubtedly misjudged things with that pic of the Glasgow rally, but they have earned the right to make the occasional error. Their support since early 2014 gives them a bit of leeway. The BBC on the other hand is perhaps more interesting. From trying to ignore even the Glasgow march, impossible even from their ivory towers, to actually giving some credible coverage to the Dumfries march is a major change which hopefully is a sign of things to come.

I for one, do not want slavish coverage of either the SNP nor the Scottish Government. And that’s one wish I can take to the bank with the mainstream media in Scotland. I do however demand that coverage should be fair, unbiased and most of all rooted in evidence not bias. As the saying goes “Opinion is free but facts are sacred”.

The reactions to the Growth Commission have been rather strange. Some of the commentators who claim to be on this side of the Independence debate have been at pains to highlight how much they demand the right to be critical. No problems, when you demand that right you have to accept that others are entitled to the same rights.

So far most of us have bitten our tongues and swallowed hard as the Government are taken to task by our friends. We have held back from highlighting where we see flaws in other positions and programmes.

In her excellent piece in The National on 4 June, “Growth Report is a good start for fuelling indy debate” Carolyn Leckie write “Since the last referendum was announced in 2012, I’ve taken a critical but constructive approach towards the leadership of the independence movement. Our paths may well diverge more sharply after we have created a new nation state but, in the meantime, I understand that damaging the SNP can only play into the hands of those who would lock us into the straightjacket for ever more” Hear, hear say I on both counts.

I would agree with some of the criticisms. Why did they not talk to the STUC for example? But to dismiss it as continuance of the Tory austerity agenda is just so far over the top. Independence will not be won by persuading just one part of the population no matter how much some might like to think. It will be won by persuading men and women from every part of our country, in every age group, in every social group, in every employment group that Independence offers them and their families, friends etc a credible chance of building a better life in a better country. In the ballot box, a vote from a reformed Daily Mail or Express reader counts for just as much as the most committed Socialist Worker or Morning Star reader.

The second thing that worries me about the report is the way it’s being presented as a “manifesto” or “programme” of the SNP. It’s neither. It is a discussion paper produced by the Scottish Government and intended to kick start a serious discussion on what kind of Scotland we can build. I do wonder just how many of those who comment on it have actually read it. It may at some time become part of the SNP programme but that can only happen once it has been discussed and debated, perhaps even radically amended, by Conference.

That line between Government and Party appears to be getting thinner each year. I accept that Government has to respond to situations much more quickly than the policy procedures of the Party allow. However, it’s regrettable that the publication of this report did not allow time for resolutions and amendments to be placed on the Conference agenda. It remains to be seen if the Autumn Conference will get the chance.